Pickling asparagus is a great way to make the most of the vegetable’s short but brillant season. And whether you’re looking for a quick refrigerator pickle or something better suited for long term storage, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your pickled crop. So we’ve compiled our best pickling tips, an easy and quick recipe for Spicy Horseradish Asparagus Spears, and highlighted a few easy ways to enjoy them.
Find the Best Jar for the Job
When pickling asparagus select the tallest jar you can find. Remove the asparagus’ woody ends, then measure the height of your spears against the height of the heat proof jars you have at your disposal. If you’re planning on making refrigerator pickles, like the Spicy Horseradish Asparagus Spears below, any heat proof jar that can accommodate the spears will do. If you’re looking to store your asparagus long term, make sure the jar you select can handle water bath canning. And if you’re going this route, make sure you leave an inch of headroom above your asparagus spears. You may have to trim your spears back accordingly. But don’t worry you can still get use out of those trimmed bits. Simply place them in a freezer bag and store them for future stock.
On the Flip Side
It’s best to invert your asparagus spears when placing them in the jar. The tips of asparagus are the most delicate portion of the spear, so keeping them out of the way of traffic will give them the most longevity. Think about it, most of the action happens at the mouth of the jar. The lid gets unscrewed, diners root around for their ideal spear, and the lid gets replaces. All this activity increases the chances of mushing those tender asparagus tips, so keep them out of harm’s way.
To Blanch or not to Blanch
Start your pickle with raw asparagus. Asparagus is a delicate, quick-cooking vegetable, so there’s no need to blanch it prior to pickling it. Adding your pickling solution while it’s still hot will get your veg where it needs to go in terms of texture. And the pickling process itself will further tenderize the asparagus. If you blanch your asparagus prior to adding it to the jar, you run the risk of having soggy pickles rather than crisp pickles. And when done correctly, asparagus is a surprisingly crisp pickle.
Get Creative with Flavours
A good basic and balanced brine consists 2 cups of vinegar, 2 cups of water, 4 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of salt. But this entire recipe is negotiable. Let’s start with the vinegar. You can use any kind of vinegar you like. Apple, red wine, rice wine, or champagne just to name a few. The water to vinegar ratio can be increased in the vinegar’s favor for a sharper, tangier pickle. And the salt and sugar measurements can be increased or decreased to your heart’s content. Up the sugar for a sweeter more bread-and-butter-style pickle, or up the salt for a more decidedly savory spear. And don’t forget the herbs and spices. Any and all fresh herbs, and whole spices go here. So get creative and have fun.
How to Serve
Once you’ve given your asparagus the appropriate amount of pickling time, it’s time to indulge. But aside from eating them straight from the jar, which is a fabulous option by the way, there are a number of ways to enjoy them. The first and probably the most popular is cuddled up next to a stalk of celery in a caesar. The second is in a sandwich. You can slice your spears up into sensible pieces before adding them to your lunch or you can just lay them in there whole, like we did with our BLT. And if you’re keen to add them to your grill menu, try adding them to your hot dogs for the perfect pickly hit. You can also chop them up and add them to your green, potato, or pasta salads for an extra hit of acidity.
- 2 tbsp prepared horseradish
- 2 Thai red chilis, optional
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch Ontario-grown asparagus, trimmed to fit a 1 litre jar
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp salt
- 4 tbsp sugar
- Cold water to fill
- In the bottom of a 1 litre mason jar place the horseradish, chilis, crushed red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Place the asparagus in the jar, tip-down. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan pour the vinegar. Add the mustard seed, black peppercorns, salt, and sugar. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until the salt and sugar dissolves. Take the pan off of the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Give it about 10 minutes.
- Pour the vinegar mixture over the asparagus and add enough cold water to ensure the spears are fully immersed. Seal the jar and give it a good shake. Transfer the asparagus to the fridge and let pickle for a minimum of 24 hours. 48 hours is better. The spear will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Pickling Time: 48 hours
Written by Susan of Rhub and Cod